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EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE: She knows cancer, stem cells, and God


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- This week's Extraordinary Person of the Week is a three time cancer survivor.

T.S. Eliot once said "Every moment is a fresh beginning".

Her name is Mildred Bethea. She is a 12 year cancer survivor. She's nothing short of extraordinary.

"They say 40 is the new 20," said Mildred Bethea. "So I was right at 41."

But at 41, Mildred Bethea faced a "new" challenge. It wasn't 20.

"I can still remember that day," she said. "I actually got the diagnosis that it was breast cancer and I remember driving home from the doctors office and when I parked in front of my house, it was like, I just cried like a baby."

In 2002 Mildred endured a mastectomy, reconstructive surgery, and six months of chemotherapy.

She also worked.

She also went to school.

She was determined to get her life back and she did, but...

"It was two and a half years later I was diagnosed with leukemia," Bethea said.

Once again she would undergo chemo. This treatment was worse than the last. But once again Bethea would battle it out and win. She would survive not knowing that something else was waiting to try and knock her down again.

"Shortly after being in remission from leukemia," Bethea said, "I went through myodysplastic syndrome, which is leukemia trying to come back again."

Seven more months of chemo ended with a recommendation for a bone marrow transplant.

In 2007, there were 7 million people on the transplant registry. Not one was a match for Mildred.

Then what she calls a blessing from a loving and caring God: a match was made in the public umbilical cord bank. Yes, she is alive courtesy of the stem cells from a newborn baby boy.

Mildred spreads her story via outlets like the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. She was golden in a fundraising calender, and her message is golden.

"No one could have told me that after one diagnosis that something else was gonna come and something else was going to come and something else was going to come," she said. "So what my plight was taught me is to be grateful for every day."

A daily journey that's extraordinary.

The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure will be held in downtown Wilmington March 1. Thousands are expected to take part in this annual fundraiser for breast cancer awareness and research.

More information can be found on the organization's website.

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